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Saturday, Apr 21, 2018
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Steve Otto Columns

Otto: Pinellas Park suspects making a bad career choice

“Marquez Dunbar — career criminal.”

We live in a time when young people starting out can expect to have a half-dozen or more jobs in the workplace. It seems a little unusual to have your career noted at the age of 20. From all indications, though, it’s probably set in stone.

You may not remember Marquez Dunbar. After all, it’s been over a week, and with our news cycle set on overload we’ve already moved on.

To rehash, it was back on the morning of April 1 that 84-year-old Charles Clark returned to his condominium in Pinellas Park after a trip to the drugstore. Climbing out of his car, he was attacked from behind by four people.

Clark put up a struggle, even knocking one to the ground. Another attacker came at him with a knife, cutting him several times on the arm.

Fortunately, a passer-by saw what was happening and ran over. The attackers jumped on bicycles and pedaled away. In the fray, Clark lost his keys.

Clark was taken to the hospital, treated and released.

But that would not be the end of it. That night, the assailants returned and stole his car. The following morning the car was recovered, and soon the police had three of the suspects in hand, all teenagers and all with rap sheets. On Monday, police announced the arrest of a fourth suspect, Marquez Dunbar.

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It was Dunbar, at the ripe old age of 20, who had the label “career criminal” by authorities in the announcement of his arrest.

Dunbar was charged with violation of probation on charges of carjacking and armed robbery. There were two counts of carjacking and another of resisting an officer with violence. That was about three years ago, when he was 16 and not quite stuck with the “career criminal” label.

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You wonder if the other three were taking lessons in stupidity from Dunbar. Two are brothers. They are still apparently in touch with their parents. At least their father showed up in court.

The third, a 15-year -old girl, was taken into custody after she went home and her parents called police. She made the news in 2012 when she claimed she was attacked by a gang while walking home.

Dunbar was released on probation in November from the Desoto Annex of the Indian River Correctional Facility. His probation is scheduled to end in November 2016. That seems unlikely. A note on the prison’s website says “offender is temporarily unavailable for direct supervision during the supervision term, due to being in custody in jail or another facility ...”

The Desoto Annex where Dunbar found himself placed is about 10 miles out of Arcadia and has a capacity of 1,453, so he wasn’t lonely.

If you run through the list of available programs at the prison, it reads like a land of opportunity.

There are programs to get a GED, a mandatory literacy program and vocational programs in welding, carpentry and masonry. If you want to stop smoking, there is a program. There is weight training, wellness education and a law library.

Before you get out you have the option of a 100-hour transition program, a career scope assessment, a career planner program, a re-entry seminar and even something called “Thinking for a change.” I’m guessing Dunbar skipped that one.

I haven’t been down to the Desoto annex and don’t know if all of those programs are available, but Marquez Dunbar must have done enough of them to get out a few months ago, even if he was considered a “career criminal.”

You wonder, or at least I do, if the other three teens who were charged with assaulting an elderly man in plain daylight and then stealing his car that night are only one incarceration or two away from getting to be “career criminals.”

It’s a discouraging story.

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